Lawmakers mull tax for funding
ATLANTA | Next year is shaping up to be the year the state starts doing something about its long-running traffic nightmare.
The Legislature will try to make amends with the business community by quickly passing a constitutional amendment that would provide for funding regional transportation projects with a local sales tax, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
State officials also will be lobbying the Obama administration for as much as $1 billion in transportation projects as part of the new administration’s stimulus package.
Officials also will consider adopting a comprehensive transportation plan that was delivered to the governor two weeks ago.
The fact that Georgia hasn’t had a plan in 20 years says all any driver needs to know about why he’s losing years from life while sitting in traffic.
Last session, after the House passed the transportation sales tax amendment, the business community’s No. 1 priority was defeated in the Senate by three votes.
Business leaders are still smarting. They don’t like surprises or being embarrassed by losing when they think they have won.
Kessel D. Stelling, president of Bank of North Georgia and chairman of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, put it this way: “We don’t ask for much, and when we say it’s the most important issue, and then we get nothing.”
Wish list trimmed back for 2009
BOISE | Some groups have trimmed their proposals for the 2009 Idaho Legislature because deepening hard times mean measures that cost more money are almost certain to fall flat with lawmakers focused on belt-tightening.
For instance, Laird Noh, who has been pushing an incentives package for ranch, farm and timberland owners, said his group voted this month not to pursue a new bill in the coming session.
“It just doesn’t appear to be prudent timing to pursue something that would have even a minimal impact on state general fund revenues this year,” Mr. Noh said.
Already this year, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter ordered agencies to trim 1 percent, or $27 million, from their current budgets and to delay spending another $41 million.
He may announce more aggressive cuts later.
Sen. Dean Cameron, Rupert Republican and co-chairman of Idaho’s budget-writing committee, said, “We are more and more convinced this may not be a short drop in economic activity, that it may be a more prolonged event.”
GOP picks Morris for Senate president
TOPEKA | Senate President Steve Morris is nominated for a second term in the chamber’s top position by fellow Republicans.
Mr. Morris, a moderate from Hugoton, defeated conservative Sen. Susan Wagle of Wichita in an 18-13 vote by the Republican caucus Monday. Mr. Morris’ election to a four-year term is expected to be ratified by the full Senate when the Legislature convenes Jan. 12.
Mr. Morris’ selection all but assures that moderate Republicans will control the Senate in the coming session.
Committee control split among parties
HELENA | The Democrat charged with leading a deadlocked state House announced split control of committees Friday.
Incoming House Speaker Bob Bergren says he hopes his committee assignments will ease Republican fears that he plans to ignore them.
Mr. Bergren says all committees have an equal number of Republicans and Democrats. He also says he gave Republicans the chairmanship on three of the five top-tier committees.
The new House speaker says much of the list had been hammered out with Republican leaders, but he says talks are ongoing over subcommittees, and that list is not yet finalized.
The House, which convenes in January, is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans led by one seat last year, when the Legislature adjourned amid a historic deadlock.
‘No gifts’ could return to session
OKLAHOMA CITY | A state lawmaker who proposed a “no-gifts list” to prevent lobbyists from giving legislators items of value says he may file similar legislation in the 2009 Oklahoma Legislature.
Rep. Jason Murphey of Guthrie filed legislation in this year’s session to create a “no-gifts list,” but the measure failed to get a hearing on the House floor.
Mr. Murphey said he is not waiting for legislators to act. The second-term Republican legislator has posted a sign on his state Capitol door advising lobbyists not to give him or his executive assistant any gifts.
Mr. Murphey said he pledged to constituents when he ran for his House seat in 2006 that he wouldn’t accept gifts from lobbyists. He says he has done his best always to turn them down.
City wants fee to maintain streets
OLYMPIA | Olympia might be the first city in Washington to use a state law that allows a $20 fee on vehicle registrations without a public vote.
City officials say they need the money to maintain streets.
Tim Eyman, who led initiative campaigns to lower car tab fees, criticized the city council for calling the hearing two days before Thanksgiving.
The Olympian reports the Legislature authorized a $20 fee last year for municipal transportation needs.
The Seattle suburb of Lake Forest Park also is considering the new car tab fee.
Governor wants nonpartisan judges
CHARLESTON | Gov. Joe Manchin may ask the Legislature next year to end West Virginia’s practice of electing its judiciary along partisan political lines, at least for the state’s Circuit Court judges.
Mr. Manchin has approached the state’s Judicial Association seeking its backing for his proposal.
The group represents more than 90 active and retired circuit judges and Supreme Court justices. Its executive committee already has unanimously endorsed a resolution in support of Mr. Manchin’s nonpartisan election plan. That committee has agreed to present the topic at the association’s winter meeting, which begins Tuesday.
“I have no idea what the full association will do,” said Putnam County Circuit Judge O.C. Spaulding, the group’s incoming president. “I assure you, the membership will have a diverse array of opinions.
“Some vehemently believe that you ought to have a party label. Others see advantages to electing judges on a nonpartisan basis.”
• From combined dispatches and wire reports